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The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat Hardcover – September 18, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608197239
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197231
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,339,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating exposé of the remarkably robust industry of academic ghostwriting. [A] harrowing indictment of the modern American university's current shortcomings as a meritocratic, credentializing institution, much less a home for mental and moral growth."—Wall Street Journal

"[A] stunning tale of academic fraud…shocking and compelling."—Washington Post

“A cautionary tale worth pressing upon any freshman.”—The Onion AV Club

“What could have been a depressing tale becomes, in Tomar’s hands, a funny and charming read. It’s a light romp through what one might ordinarily think of as one of the world’s worst jobs. Despite this lightness, The Shadow Scholar is ultimately an indictment not just of the paper mill industry but of the contemporary higher education system, which allows the industry to flourish.”–Washington Monthly

“Not only does the book offer a rather startling behind-the-scenes look at what is a surprisingly big business, it also delivers a highly personal, highly savage indictment of the American higher-education system.”

"Don't tell, but I would gladly pay Dave Tomar $10 a page to write my next book."—Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U and Generation Debt

"Important and utterly engrossing. What do we expect from colleges, and what are we really getting? Can we still put our faith--and massive quantities of money--in higher education? Dave Tomar may distract us with great bar-room storytelling, but while we're laughing at the punchlines, he's snuck in some profound questions we've all got to answer."—Howard Megdal, writer-at-large for Capital New York, author of Taking the Field and Wilpon's Folly

"Hunter Thompson has been reborn as Dave Tomar, the Shadow Scholar, and he's writing college term papers for money, and telling us how and why.  He may be bad news, but he's very good company.  Read it and weep.  Read it and gnash your teeth.  But read it."—Mark Edmundson, author of Why Read? and The Death of Sigmund Freud

About the Author

Dave Tomar is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and a graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. In 2010, Tomar authored an article entitled "The Shadow Scholar" under the pseudonym Ed Dante. The article, detailing his decade of experience as an academic ghostwriter, highlighted the issues of cheating and the need for reform in higher education. "The Shadow Scholar" became the most read article in the history of The Chronicle of Higher Education and received special citation from The Education Writers Association. Dave Tomar has also been a regular contributor to The Perpetual Post.

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Customer Reviews

That is why an appendix would be so useful..
Some of the content reads as a bit of a woe-is-me story of a suburban kid who had a pretty good deal, all things considered.
Adam Dembowitz
The book, which is really quite gripping, does a good job of explaining Tomar's motives.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dunyazad VINE VOICE on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the original Shadow Scholar article when I read it a couple of years ago. It was well-written and fascinating. Here was a guy making a living writing papers for other people--to put it more bluntly, helping students cheat their way through school--and he offered an inside look at a world that many of us had never seen before. I wanted to read more about it, so I was thrilled when I found out that he had a full-length book coming out; it was probably my most highly-anticipated read of the year.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a let-down. The two works are completely different in tone, for starters. The article is smooth and polished, while the book feels a lot rougher, both in its argumentation and in its language.

There are certainly lots of thought-provoking ideas here, but as the book progressed, it increasingly turned into a self-indulgent personal history that was only tangentially related to the central issue. We hear lots and lots--and lots more--about how Tomar was working unsustainably hard to produce so many papers and make a living. He reached the point of burnout and was fired from multiple essay-writing companies. This is all well and good, except that it eventually becomes clear that these problems were just a matter of his time management skills and didn't necessarily result from the nature of the job. He took on too many assignments, he barely slept, and he used a lot of drugs to get through it all (and for fun on many other occasions). This might be partially understandable if he were working for minimum wage and honestly struggling to get by--but the few times when he mentions his pay and rate of production, he's making $45-$60 per hour. The numbers just didn't compute for me, even taking into account that the summer months were much slower.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Shadow Scholar is based on an article which appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2010. I didn't read the article at the time, but I remember that it caused an uproar in the education community.

In his book, David Tomar explains how he became disillusioned as a college freshman. He had gone into debt and was getting little from a university designed for profit more than for learning. When a friend offered to lend him the money he needed to pay off his gigantic parking ticket debt, Tomar balked, not knowing when he'd ever be able to pay her back. His friend offered an alternative. She needed a paper for an assignment and was willing to pay Tomar to write it for her. Soon other students were asking him to write their papers and Tomar was off and running.

Tomar was angry about his college experience and felt no guilt over writing papers for other students to turn in as their own. It was hard work. Tomar was driven, obsessed really, about writing as many papers and earning as much money as he could. So he kept late hours, drank too much coffee, ingested too many drugs, and wore himself out.

Tomar's indictment of the university system that crams as many students into a huge class as possible in order to maximize profits explains some of his anger, but he also expresses anger at his parents, ex-girlfriends, his high school and junior high school, George W. Bush, all of his employers, and the lazy rich students who paid him to write their papers. (Lazy rich students are only of the many groups that buy papers.)

Tomar professes to be anger-free by the end of the book, but it may be too early to be sure.

The book, which is really quite gripping, does a good job of explaining Tomar's motives.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Eric Sembrat on November 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With a small break in my graduate school and work schedule, I managed to give a solid read-through of The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat. This book was written in a response to the author, David Tomar, and his incredibly popular and decisive article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of interests is on technological ethical decision making, especially those of the generation of digitally connected natives (DCNs). However, Tomar's novel takes a wildly different approach to discussing his business.

Biographical Bias

In short, the book is framed around Tomar's personal life. The first five chapters are delegated to the author's distain with the higher education model. In his mind, higher education improperly prepares students for the business world and is fascinated with the bottom-line. Lecturers are aggressively pushing their publications as a sleazy attempt to bank a little extra coin. Administrative services are constantly looking to undermine students at every level. Parking services is a corrupt and devious division.

This anti-university rant, which takes up the better half of a fourth of the book, frames the ethics of Tomar's actions. In his mind, the university system model is concerned with one thing: profit. And while this is true in some instances, Tomar directly downplays the university as a role in (proper) education. The fact that the author spends an extraordinary time ranting about parking speaks to the level of cognitive dissonance between the university's true goals and his mindset. In Tomar's mind, the parking system serves one role: a mob-like coercion of students, faculty, and staff by ticketing, booting, and egregious charges.
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